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pensable. Shall we go back to the awful past as filled with gorgeous but incoherent visions, -as to a land of shadows, -as to realms where imagination enchants and fables all,—or like those who enter some city of the dead, tread the streets which its former population really walked, and open the abodes now voiceless and cheerless, which once rang with festive mirth and joy? Is the vast transmission from former ages, the golden and well-coiled chain, unadulterated and unalloyed, true in every link, compact through the entireness of its series, or is it a fancy-tissue into which each wanton hand has wove its thread, and stained its colour, - variegated alike by imposture and caprice ? Is it a succession of glorious creations, passages of power and greatness, once beheld while teeming forth to universal wonder, and of which this is the veritable record,-or is it a wreck, the debris, of some old chaos and older night?

It must be admitted that we, of this generation, enjoy superior advantages for the prosecution of such disquisitions. The mind of man, in general, is much released from the superstitious homage to names. No living age could possibly boast such perfect information of the dimensions and relative locality of every country. Where comparison is wanted between the former and present condition of any land, we can bring to it an ample array of statistics.—The wide extension of political knowledge clothes the rehearsal of ancient empire with the intensest attraction.— Etymology grubs up the root with untired labour, and with improved dexterity disengages the finer fibres also.— Travel, to be now distinguished, must leave a beaten track and fashionable tour; it must climb Lebanon, and measure the Thebaid or the Troad.—Induction has made us take each step towards a conclusion in a slow and serious manner, and only the more so where it is not of things within the cognizance of direct experiment and immediate sense.—And in the sphere of our short-lived observation, events have transpired which leave us little to call improbable and extravagant.

We shall impose as hard a claim to belief upon our descendants, as our most romantic forefathers did ever upon us! Besides, it is ours to learn from that antiquity which our world has now attained. The full tide flows through our channel, swollen by the confluence of a thousand tributary streams. This is the old age of mundane narrative. We have long since outgrown and outlived our ancestors. We may think of antediluvians as our children, and of posterity as our sires. We are the longest livers up to the present moment. If we may put faith in history, we exist in all the past as well as all the present. We not only, as it has been said, live twice ; our first life compensates, for the brevity of the second, by chiliads of years. Time with our fathers was in its youth, we only see its hoary head. We partake of its consummation, and should display the experienced wisdom of such a comparative longevity.

To many it will appear that this advanced position is unfavourable to our impression of distant events, and enfeebling to the testimonies which report them. But as mathematical properties are always the same, as the qualities of the triangle must be invariable wherever in space it can be described, or by whatever mind it can be conceived,—so a fact once proved, can lose nothing of certainty by the continued durability of its proof. The age can no more weaken it, than the stain and the worm-eaten mould can invalidate charters of right and muniments of property. The preservation of such proof is its augmentation. The more venerable its period, the more triumphant is its force. We see in its allowance by so many ages, as well as its tradition through them, that it is stamped with constantlyrenewing approval. The suffrage of many centuries must help to confirm it. That which ever was sufficient to authenticate, must always be sufficient. Nor is there better evidence to be desired concerning any distant occurrence, than that contemporaries,—supposing them to be observant, competent, and unprejudiced,-unanimously, unwaveringly, and disinterestedly believed it.

Our immediate purpose is to vindicate that credence which we commonly repose in historical informations, and to lay bare the futility, or the profligacy, of that reserve which would suspend such credence, or of that scorn which would denounce it. If Walter Raleigh rebuked himself for his attempt to write a History of the World, because he could not ascertain the reasons of the brawl under his window, we might suggest to the accomplished cavalier that in the one task he was overmatched, and that in the other more personal enquiry might have succeeded. To ask of a populace engaged in any affray was never a likely way to clear up the matter,—“clubs, bills, and partisans,"—nor probably should we learn much better from two armies, as they closed in mortal strife, what was the cause of their encounter. Voltaire is said to have exclaimed, when told that his account of the battle of Fontenoy was destitute of truth, “ No matter, there are not more than three or four of the present generation who know it not to be true, and in another generation there will be no one to contradict me." Vain arrogance! There is not a more dependent author than the historian. Let him affect the tone of the dictator, or the nod of the despot, and his power at that moment departs from him. Philosophy has maintained an empire in defiance of facts, but History could never venture to disregard them. General conviction owes far less to historic composition, than historical composition to general conviction. If the critic of Ferney said and did this, the expression was not more vile than the attempt was abortive.

It may here be proper to ask, What degree of certainty is to be expected as the result of Historical impression ? We commonly divide evidence into intuitive, presumptive, and demonstrative. Intuitive is deemed necessary, inevitable, in its effect. Be it so, it is not immediate. A reasoning must take place in the mind ere it be allowed. We remember not our infancy, or we might recall great mental effort ere we admitted that, which we now admit without any conscious thought. For as intuition always must relate to some truth, or proposition involving the difference of things, the mind can only receive it by judging upon it, though the judgment be as rapid as the volitions which move the fingers of the most perfect artist over his keys or strings. The word implies that we consent as soon as we look on the matter alleged. Still there must be intellectual exercise in this, for we cannot pronounce concerning a colour, but as the sensation of the fact induces the mental perception of it; and the idea or notion of that colour is therefore a conviction drawn from a reasoned discrimination by the mind itself. We can, then, never allow the truth of History, however probable, however analogous to what has fallen under our notice,—in this manner of quick and perfect realization, of all but involuntary mental process. Even geometric truth may be the subject of intuition, while historical never can.—Demonstrative proof is as incapable of assistance here. You can never show that what has taken place in former times, could only have taken place, and could not have otherwise taken place. Historical truth is, therefore, not necessary truth, and consequently this rigid science of proof can have no bearing on it. A battle may have been fought on the most mathematical rules, but no mathematical rules could demonstrate that it was fought at all.—Presumptive reasoning is, therefore, the basis of our most general belief. Unlike mathematical demonstration, this is graduated through a range of feebler probability to the strongest, most undeniable, assurance, of moral certainty. It is within this category that historical evidence must be comprised. And it will serve to establish the truth of the most astonishing events, if those events be not known to be in themselves impossible, and if the contrary opinion be far more insupposeable. It can render the memory of ages as worthy of credit, as we feel our personal memory to be. This statement will be felt by some, who do not weigh it, as a virtual abandonment of that high ground on which we are disposed to place Historic authority. Cannot, it will be asked, cannot we be infallibly sure? We reply, that we can be as certain as of the intuitive truth, that black is not white,-as of the mathematical truth, that the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the other two squares described upon the sides which contain the right angle. But though we may be as certain, we become not thus certain in the same way. I am equally assured that such kings have reigned, that such empires have existed, with the conviction that a whole is greater than its part, that two circles touching each other internally cannot have the same centre,and I find it impossible to determine which facts are the more or less certified by my mind. My grasp of them

is not affected by any particular direction from which I have seized them.

The nature of man reconciles itself to this credence, as the necessity of his circumstances constrains him. It is a simple, easy, state of the human mind when yielding itself to the evidence of testimony. It is an agreeable consent. It is to be as much expected as vegetable growth beneath its fostering influences.

Moral evidence commends its claim to us. Without it, or by its rejection, society must be stagnant, law must be frustrated, and knowledge be contracted to a worthless point. We constantly act upon this principle, that men of worth, knowledge, and integrity, are worthy of credit,—that we may rely upon them for certainties of which we can have no sensible impact,—that even the evidence, extorted by fear, and analysed with caution, of the most false, may be deserving of belief. This does our mental constitution no violence, it is in harmony, not only with its habits, but its laws. And indeed were it not so, what would be the lot of man! Did we exist in all times, and in all places, testimony would be superfluous. But we are limited to space, we are mortal, we are creatures of very

finite properties,- and must we know nothing save what we can organically attest? We must then compare our little being to a captive pent in his dungeon, and our few opportunities of knowledge to his prison-bars. In short, an obstinate incredulousness, where there is this cast of evidence, is most anomalous and unreasonable. The acceptance of testimony, in all its capable connections, is the postulate of all civilization, jurisprudence, knowledge, and religion !

Man, true to himself, has always been more than content to receive the records of former times. He has been most excitedly curious. The wandering tribes have their legendary story, their proud lineage; and these remembrances they carry with them, wherever they raise their wigwam, or however remotely they push their migration. Ignorant of letters, truth has become corrupted,—the stream, confined by no fixed bank, has grown polluted by the broad soil it has overflowed,-but the tale of inconsistent marvel reveals the desire of man, savage

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